The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Tiffany Michelle Brown
Amanda beat Lewis at everything.
On their first date at a local brewery, Amanda’s competitive spirit had been akin to an aphrodisiac for Lewis. He had watched as Amanda dropped wooden sphere after wooden sphere into the larger-than-life replica of Connect 4, his attraction growing stronger with each move she made. She’d been deadly seriously, her brow knotting in concentration, little electric shivers shuttling through her body when she successfully outsmarted Lewis. This was a woman of passion, Lewis told himself, and so he kissed her in the parking lot and asked for a second date. “I knew I’d won you over,” Amanda had whispered before climbing into her car and driving off into the dark.
As their relationship progressed, Lewis realized Amanda was used to winning. Everything came naturally to her. Amanda could shoot a mean layup and regularly schooled Lewis on the basketball court. The first time she attempted to make macaroons at home, Lewis raved over their perfection and told her she should open up a bakery. Amanda could finish the New York Times crossword in a single sitting, without breaking a sweat or backtracking on a single answer.
She was ruthless at board games, especially those that involved strategy. Amanda got riled up every time she and Lewis played Scrabble or Pandemic or King of Tokyo. Most of the time, it was really cute to watch concentration bloom and overtake her features. She had an adorable habit of chewing on her bottom lip when she was especially close to victory. And Amanda had a dance she performed in the living room of their apartment whenever she came out on top, which was always.
But that was most of the time. Every once in a while, Amanda’s intensity scared Lewis. He found himself holding back or making poor decisions when their competition grew strong, as if supplicating to his girlfriend was a requirement for their shared happiness.
That’s why it was so befuddling that Amanda was now losing a game of chess to Lewis.
He’d found the elegant glass set at an estate sale for twenty dollars. He knew Amanda would love the aristocracy of it all. He just hoped she wouldn’t break any of the delicate pieces amid her passion to dethrone his queen.
They’d sat down at their dining room table with glasses of sweet tea and a box of Cheez-Its between them. It was all so normal until…
There’d been no conscious or unconscious self-sabotage on Lewis’ part. Amanda had made a shit move, one that left her exposed. She tried to maintain a poker face after letting go of her piece, but her nostrils flared, signaling to Lewis that she knew what had happened.
Lewis had a decision to make. Deep down, he knew he should let her win. He knew that if he followed her shit move with a shit move of his own, they’d have a lovely, normal night together.
But Lewis wanted something else.
His skin tingled in anticipation. He wanted to win at chess.
He moved his pawn with great gravitas and sat back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest and smiling with glee.
Amanda’s eyes widened. Her body tensed and stilled. If not for the shallow sound of her breath passing through her lips, Lewis would’ve thought she’d turned to stone.
As he watched his girlfriend grow increasingly glassy-eyed and despondent, Lewis began to regret his decision.
He loved her. All of her. Yes, her need to win was sometimes annoying, but it was a part of her. A part of her that had first attracted him. And this had to be…what for her? Humiliating? Sobering? The impetus of an existential crisis?
Lewis cleared his throat and reached across the board to retrieve his pawn.
Amanda beat him to it. She snatched up the carved figurine and, to Lewis’ horror, shoved it in her mouth. Amanda’s chair screeched against hardwood as she pushed from the table and tilted her head back, lips to the rafters.
That’s when the gagging started. Deep whines, bubbled cries, and sharp gasps coalesced in the dining room as the piece of glass burrowed down Amanda’s throat. Lewis bolted from his seat, ready to give his girlfriend the Heimlich.
But she held her palms out to him, fingers splayed, her universal sign for don’t-you-fucking-touch-me. Lewis wilted against the table, watching Amanda’s gullet twitch and expand and contract and work.
A moment later, the horrid bulge in her neck disappeared and the noises stopped. Without a word, Amanda sat down and licked her lips. She pointed at Lewis’ chair and he staggered back to it, dizzy and shaking.
Amanda took a deep breath and bit her lip, tasting victory.
When her voice broke the unsettling silence of the dining room, it was cracked and raw, but confident, just like Amanda.